Saturday, July 21, 2018

OperaCreole: WWNO: Edmond Dédé: The Classical Composer You've Never Heard Of

Edmond Dédé

The Historic New Orleans Collection, Gift of Mr. Al Rose

OperaCreole forwards this transcript: 

Jul 19, 2018

Sultana Isham is a violinist and composer in New Orleans, and is studying Dédé. “He had a really hard time when he was here” she says. “Because of the discrimination that he was constantly going through, specifically as a dark skinned black man.”

In the 19th Century, white composers published sheet music with their faces on the front cover. But Creole composers didn’t, for fear their music wouldn’t sell. And pictures of Dédé show he was particularly dark skinned. “But he was extremely talented,” Sultana adds, “and didn't allow that to stop him from getting what he needed to get, and do what he wanted to do.”

Dédé realized his musical career could only go so far in the South, and so he needed to get out. He moved to Mexico when he was nineteen, and worked in a cigar factory to make money. He worked, and saved for three years. When he returned to New Orleans in 1851, the Civil War was looming, and race relations felt more threatening than before. The cards were against him here.

Dédé continued playing music and working as a cigar maker in New Orleans for six more years, until he finally had enough money to leave for good. He went to France, bounced around conservatories there, and a few years later became the conductor of the Grand Théâtre of Bordeaux. Clearly things moved a lot faster for him across the pond.

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